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Spare Change for Social Change: Can Wasted Subway Fees Be Used for Public Good? MetroChange Could Turn Wasted Subway Fees Into Public Good

New York subway riders throw out $52 million worth of rides each year. Can MetroChange harvest that value back into the community?

Things are easier said than done, or so the old adage goes, and we couldn't agree more. That's why we do The GOOD 30-Day Challenge (#30DaysofGOOD), a monthly attempt to live better. Our challenge for December? Creative microphilanthropy.

New York City may be one of the most expensive places on earth, but that doesn't stop subway users from casting millions of dollars worth of rides to the wind each year. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority generously gives subway riders a 7 percent bonus when they purchase a multi-ride pass. Yet this bonus often turns into a burden: 70 extra cents on a $10 purchase doesn't get anyone too far when a single ride costs $2.25. The flimsy plastic MetroCards are often chucked or ignored when the balance runs below the value of a ride, amounting to more than $52 million in unused fares each year.

A new project from a trio of New York University students seeks to transform that monumental sum into a public good. MetroChange is their concept for a charity platform that would make it simple for subway riders to donate spare change to nonprofits. With a swipe at MetroChange kiosks set up in highly-trafficked subway stations around the city, subway riders could scan their card to see how much change was left. Then, with the push of a button, they could donate the balance. At the end of every month, MetroChange would turn that change into social change by donating it to charity.

According to MetroChange, the idea would work best if the kiosks targeted tourists, who are less likely to refill their cards. But while it sounds like a simple, effective idea, founders Stepan Boltalin, Genevieve Hoffman, and Paul Maywill need to convince a key partner to sign on: the MTA. According to MetroChange's blog, they see two likely ways to partner: The MTA could agree to return the "unused value back to the community where it originated" or an outside group could agree to make a monthly match. MetroChange is actively recruiting partners. Message them via Twitter to send your ideas.


Photos via (cc) Flickr user paulmmay; Story via Springwise

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